Wednesday, November 13, 2013
First Cup: Wednesday
By Nick Borges
- Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News: It was not a classic Dirk Nowitzki performance, but he finished Tuesday night in vintage territory. Nowitzki’s 19 points in the Mavericks’ 105-95 victory over Washington moved him past Jerry West and into 16th place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list with 25,197 points. “It’s a monumental achievement to pass a player like that,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “He’s going to pass more big names in the weeks and months to come.” Carlisle, 54, is old enough to have watched West, a Hall of Famer, play during the latter half of his Lakers career (1960-74), so he can put the accomplishment into perspective. Although Nowitzki wasn’t born until 1978, he has a keen sense of NBA history. Told last week that he was approaching West, Nowitzki exclaimed, “That’s the friggin’ logo.” That’s right. Nowitzki has passed the legend whose dribbling silhouette has long believed to have been the inspiration behind the NBA logo. “It’s nice, obviously a great accomplishment,” Nowitzki said. “The Logo kind of says it all and sums it up. It’s another great milestone, but for now, got to keep working."
- Carl Steward of The Oakland Tribune: The Warriors delivered one of those rare NBA victories achieved in the first two minutes of the game rather than the last two on Tuesday night. Seriously, the Warriors bolted out to a 9-2 lead after the first 2:10 and it only got worse from there for the Detroit Pistons in a 113-95 hammering at Oracle Arena.Golden State won its third straight home game without a loss, and they've all been early knockouts. The Warriors have led by as much as 27 in all three, and they've trailed at Oracle for a total of only 23 seconds. Of course, it's been against less than formidable competition -- the Kobe-less Lakers, the Sacramento Kings and now an undermanned Pistons team on the second night of a back-to-back. Those three clubs are a combined 1-8 on the road. Oklahoma City comes to town Thursday, and that will be a stronger test. But to simply knock the opposition would be selling the Warriors' starting five short on this night, as the cast of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Bogut, David Lee and newcomer Andre Iguodala were positively exquisite in delivering the quick KO.
- Mike Bresnahan and Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times: The Lakers haven't given up on Steve Nash. Unlike some of their followers, they're not pushing him into an early retirement. "There's always going to be a debate but we're not going to debate it, talk about it," Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni said Tuesday. "He's going to try to get ready, he's going to try to play and we're going to try to win. It's really simple for us. It's not real difficult." Nash has already missed three of nine games and is out at least two more weeks because of nerve damage in his back, the latest injury to hit him since he joined the Lakers. But should he retire? He makes $9.3 million this season and $9.7 million next season. If he's found physically unable to play by Lakers back specialist Robert Watkins, Nash still receives full compensation. The NBA would then do its due diligence, sending a league-appointed physician to verify the findings of Lakers doctors. If the league signed off, the final year of Nash's contract would be completely removed from the Lakers' salary cap — as long as he played in fewer than 10 games this season. The Lakers aren't thinking that way. Neither is Nash. Plus, medical retirements are rare in the NBA.
- Shandel Richardson of The Miami Herald: It's early but the Heat are still paying attention to the Indiana Pacers, who started the season with eight straight wins. The Pacers are the only unbeaten team in the league, making them an early favorite as the biggest challenger to the Heat's three-year reign atop the Eastern Conference. "Yes, they do get our attention," center Chris Bosh said. "They're playing confident basketball right now but I still feel like we're the champs and we're going to put it together." The Heat play the Pacers Dec. 10 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Last year Miami defeated Indiana in seven games in the conference finals. "We're going to be up there in the conversation very soon," Bosh said. "We just have to put in the work right now. They have that chip on their shoulder. They have that hunger that we don't have because we won last year. We have to find different motivations and make sure that we're constantly challenging ourselves."
- Jenny Dial Creech of the Houston Chronicle: Rockets center Dwight Howard has been a target this year for his sub-par free throw shooting. Opponents have gone to the “hack-a-Dwight” method to put the big man at the line. After another poor performance from the line on Monday night against the Raptors (Howard was 4-of-12), he told reporters he just didn’t want to talk about free throws anymore. “I don’t want to talk about it,” Howard said. “So much has been talked about free throws, just let it go. We talk about it so much, I think about it at the line. I don’t want to think about it. I want to shoot. That’s what I do in practice. I shoot in practice and I dont miss because I am not thinking about it.” Howard said that he is overthinking free throw shots in games, and missing them because of it. He said he is making up for the lack of free throws in other ways. “I get in the game and I think so much that I tend to miss,” Howard said. “The best thing to do is to let it go. If I make it, I make it. If I don’t, it’s not the end of the world. Even if I do miss, I will be out on the other end, playing defense, getting rebounds, blocking shots and paying back for fouling in that way.”
- Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun: You didn't have to look real hard Tuesday morning to see the kind of day Rudy Gay was having. The Raptors forward was getting pounded on Twitter, on the message boards and on the blogs for his 11-for-37 performance from the field in a double overtime loss to the Houston Rockets on Monday night. Gay's 29.7% shooting night was not one he will put on the highlight reels, although the clutch three at the end of the first overtime to force a second might make it. During the same game, Gay went over on his ankle and sprained it, took shots to the jaw on three separate occasions -- "I'm just glad it wasn't Dwight (Howard) or I might not be talking," Gay said following practice in Memphis on Tuesday -- and hurt his knee. ... What is relevant to the Toronto fan base is what Gay means to the franchise currently employing him. And like it or not, Gay is one of two go-to guys in the Raptors offence. It's not the role he had in Memphis, where much of the scoring came from the big guys in the paint. In Toronto, though, the scoring load, or the bulk of it anyway, falls on Gay and DeMar DeRozan. Neither player - and both readily acknowledge this - are shooting the ball particularly well right now. Gay's shooting percentage fell to 35.6% following the Houston game, while DeRozan's dipped to 36.2%.
- Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com: LaMarcus Aldridge has often been ridiculed for not being clutch in the closing minutes of intense, tight games. Fair or not, he admits the criticism directed at that part of his game is what he constantly struggled with since becoming the face of the franchise. ... Aldridge says the last few years he became obsessed with looking up the stats of other All-Star players to see how they fared when it was time to get their team a bucket when they needed one. He never doubted his skills as a closer, but he said he knew he could do more to become better at it. So, in a modified five-spot version, Aldridge said after his summer workouts, he would play a playground game called “Beat the Pros” all by himself. He would pick five spots on the court and the goal was to make five baskets at each spot before moving to the next location. ... “It puts pressure on each shot,” he said. “It mentally makes me lock in during the fourth quarter because each shot is pressure. This summer was about me building up my mental toughness down the stretch and a little game like that by myself helped me.” Early on in this season, we have witnessed the fruits of his labor.
- Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: For years the Suns have talked about playing better defense. And it always sounded good, at least for as long as training camp lasted. But in Jeff Hornacek’s first season as coach, the Suns are actually doing it. And sticking with it. “For all of us, myself included, this is all new,” forward Channing Frye said. “And we’re buying into it. We’re basically running into a long, dark hallway and Coach tells us to go right or left.” Believe, and everything works out. Doubt, and somebody is going to get hurt. The Suns believe, and their 5-2 start going into tonight’s game at Portland is testament. Frye said the Suns aren’t doing anything differently scheme-wise from a lot of other NBA teams. They’re just working at it harder, and executing it better.
- J. Michael of CSN Washington: Everyone knows Martell Webster can be a tad quirky, maybe even borderline immature at times. But in a good way. In his ninth NBA season, the locker-room prankster isn't joking when he suggests that he needs exactly one hour and 43 minutes of nap time before games. Not one minute more. Not one minute less. And while it sounds wacky -- or just Martell being Martell -- maybe it's not. The Dallas Mavericks, who the Wizards play tonight at 8:30 p.m. ET on CSN+, have commissioned a sleep study on their players by Fatigue Science in Vancouver. Players wear digital wristbands to gauge habits, such as traveling across time zones, and they can tie it to performance. The data can be paired with the SportVU technology in 30 NBA arenas, too. Six cameras in the rafters are affixed to every player on the court so teams now can judge who runs fastest down court, how often, how much he holds the ball, contests shots, scores in traffic, hockey assists and so much more. All of this information is condensed into an analytical overview that can tell a team statistics that was never before thought imaginable. And with the sleep data, the Mavericks will have another tie-in to determine how performance is positively or negatively impacted.
- Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: A handful of teams, including the Spurs, had already been operating their own systems before the NBA mandated league-wide installation before this season. The vast majority of data remains tightly-guarded, used however each team sees fit. And even then, one executive estimated last season that franchises have figured out how to use only about 10 percent of the information SportVU compiles. The NBA will share a sliver of the data on its web site under the header of player tracking on its stats page. Call it “SportVU Lite,” with all that complex information crafted into bite-sized, easily-digestible nuggets for a public that is still adjusting to the new wave of NBA analytics. (A hint: If you’re still using out-dated measures like points per game to assess team function, you’re way behind.) This provides a wealth of interesting data beyond the basic realm of points, assists and rebounds per game. All of which remain important, but don’t always provide a particularly nuanced impression of what’s taking place on a basketball court. Case in point: Players A and B kick out to a teammate in the corner for a wide-open 3-pointer. But despite making identical passes, their credit on the play — the assist — is entirely outside their control. With this new data, the NBA is taking a big step to move past statistical models that have barely changed since it formed in the late 1940s.
- Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: “Dependent position.” You hear that term a lot these days around the Charlotte Bobcats. Specifically it refers to center Al Jefferson, and how to exploit what should be this franchise’s best offensive weapon. Jefferson is “dependent” in that he has to rely on others to get him the ball in the low post and then to prepare for a pass should the opposition double-team. They will double-team – a lot – and how well the Bobcats adjust to those defensive gimmicks might determine how their season goes. Jefferson missed much of the preseason and five of the first six regular-season games with ankle injuries. Now they need to refine how to play off him going forward. ... Jefferson admits he was a “black hole” when he played for the Minnesota Timberwolves from 2007 through 2010. He became a better passer in the ensuing three seasons playing for the Utah Jazz. That came at the insistence of Jazz coaches Jerry Sloan and Tyrone Corbin. But Jefferson’s passing only matters if the perimeter players – primarily Henderson, Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Jeff Taylor – decisively present themselves as targets.
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: In wake of the Glen Davis incident, Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said Tuesday that players should always represent the franchise the way the franchise represents them. Davis issued an apology Tuesday via Twitter after he flung a computer keyboard against a wall at an Travelodge in Orlando early Saturday morning. Davis was not arrested. "I am aware of it. We're aware of the situation as an organization and that's something we're going to handle internally," Vaughn said. "We always want the best for our players … we want for them to represent us at all times as we do represent them. Those standards won't change." Co-captain Jameer Nelson was asked about Davis, the team's other co-captain. Nelson told the Sentinel that he had no idea about the incident involving Davis, but said the organization needed to address it.